Providential vs. Materialist Determinisms

We need to distinguish two varieties of determinism w/r/t human action, one “from above,” and another “from below.” We can see human action as determined by — in the sense of conditioned by, contained within, enabled by, etc. — God’s will. But this determination isn’t reductionist — precisely because God’s will radically transcends ours, his willing can supervene upon ours without rendering our willing a mere shadow, spume, epiphenomenon. God can be sovereign, and we responsible. (So, Augustine, Pascal, Chesterton, i.a.)

Not so for the materialist sorts of determinism currently popular among Those Who Know. These views are necessarily reductionist — they don’t catch human willing up within a supereminent order of causation, but dissolve it into the blind interactions of particles governed by physical law. Here, human willing — and so, moral responsibility, decision, intentionality, etc. — is unmasked as an illusion.

We should not confuse the two sorts of determinism — arguments for the former have little to do with arguments for the latter (though I don’t see any logical ground for thinking that one couldn’t embrace both sorts of determinism).

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